people on smartphones

There’s an app for that!

Laurie Dubchansky Personal Finance

As a Certified Financial Planner™ professional, I meet clients who need assistance with cash flow planning and debt management.   I also occasionally volunteer at Sparkpoint, a program of United Way of Orange County.  They do financial counseling for hard-working, low-income people in Orange County.  Their work includes debt management, credit repair and establishing savings.  They provide free services, and they rely on cash flow planning to help clients achieve their goals.  I noticed they track clients spending manually, as clients come in with a handwritten log of their monthly expenses.  As I started to think about how they might work more efficiently, I found some great apps that help my clients and maybe Sparkpoint’s clients too!  Just this week I demonstrated the Mint app for Sparkpoint staff, but there are a few more interesting apps to check out too.

Mint has been a great resource for my clients.  By just downloading the app, and connecting your spending accounts, Mint tracks your spending and income too!  It reads the files created by your bank and credit card company.  It will auto-populate a spending budget, or you can create your own spending limits by category.  Users can receive smartphone notices when a spending category is approaching its monthly limit.  Categories nearing their limit are shown in red, while the categories still below a limit are shown in green.  Smart!  Colorful charts of spending by category are great for clients. It allows our clients to evaluate spending in real time, weekly or monthly.  Previously, clients waited to analyze data after month-end.  Those days are over!  By seeing data in real time, it allows clients to make changes prior to month-end.  Clients can evaluate how they are doing against weekly goals!  One more fine dining experience makes a bigger difference in a weekly goal than when evaluated against a monthly food budget.  Using an app to monitor spending is also a time saver!  It eliminates the tedious review of statements, either on paper or on-line.  About security: Mint participates in security scanning with VeriSign to help ensure security for sensitive data transfer.  It also uses multi-factor authentication for all users.

Digit is another appealing app!  Digit moves money from your checking account to an FDIC insured savings account.  Check out this website for a fun video on saving https://digit.co. Digit will evaluate your income and spending and move small amounts of your money to your savings account. They promise not to move too much, noted with their no-overdraft guarantee.  You can access the savings anytime!  Enjoy Digit’s “savings bonuses”, quarterly deposits of 1% interest annually.  About security: Digit uses state-of-the-art security measures. Your personal information is anonymized, encrypted and securely stored.

Qapital might be another fun way to save!  “Qapital uses everything you do to generate more savings.”. Watch their great video here: https://www.qapital.com.  Qapital is a free banking app, and it creates an FDIC insured account, helping you save in a few interesting ways.  If you want to be entertained while you save, this app is for you!  This app will round-up purchases to the nearest dollar.  So, when you use your debit or credit card, this app will round up.  For example, a $3.50 purchase becomes $4.00 and $.50 is sent to your savings account. It will also add to your savings when you use other apps!  It can save every time you clock in at work.  It can save when your favorite football team plays… Think of the possibilities!  About security: Qapital encrypts your personal data.

Regardless of your income and spending levels, it is a good idea to evaluate spending. There is no faster way to do it than with an app like Mint.  If you need an incentive to start saving or prefer the passive approach, try one of the savings apps.  Saving for your next trip, home, or for retirement – all good reasons to check out these apps.  Enjoy!